The House Democrats will be releasing their two-year operating budget proposal on Friday, and it is my hope their proposal will not rely on new taxes or tax increases. There are too many in the Legislature who are eager to raise taxes, despite the fact we have $3 billion more in revenue for the 2015-17 budget cycle — an 8 percent increase from the current budget cycle. Families have to live within their means, oftentimes without an 8 percent increase in funds, so we should work to do the same in the Legislature. I will continue to be a strong advocate for prioritizing spending and making government more efficient, streamlined and responsive for all citizens.
An update on legislation
It is cost-prohibitive for many agencies to send firefighters to the state's Fire Training Academy, so House Bill 1382 would prioritize which fire agencies get training money first. Approximately two-thirds of firefighters in the state are volunteers, so my bill would help smaller agencies that don't have the manpower to send people to training and still provide coverage. Last week, the bill was unanimously approved in the Senate Government Operations and Security Committee. Yesterday, the Senate Rules Committee sent the bill to the Senate floor to be voted on.
House Bill 1962 would ensure Social Security numbers on process server registration forms are confidential and exempt from public disclosure, unless disclosure is required by federal law. In the past, some counties have delivered process servers' Social Security numbers through public information requests, which is why I introduced this bill. House Bill 1962 was unanimously approved in the Senate Law and Justice Committee yesterday, and is now awaiting further action.
Additionally, I testified on House Bill 1671 last week in the Senate Health Care Committee. The bill would help save lives by increasing access to prescription drugs that combat heroin overdoses. It clarifies the law to allow first responders to have access to these prescriptions, and also allows homeless shelter employees to keep them on hand. I am proud to be cosponsoring the bill, and have been working hard with the prime sponsor to see it signed into law.
Recapping our town hall meeting
On March 14, Rep. Drew MacEwen and I held a town hall meeting at the Mason County Senior Center in Shelton. We had a great time speaking with residents from the 35th, and covered a wide range of topics that are of greatest concern to the district.
Topics included education funding, reducing and/or eliminating unfunded mandates, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), performance audits and more. If you would like to watch the town hall, MasonWebTV has the video.
Telephone town hall tonight!
If you couldn't make it to the town hall meeting, I invite you to participate in a telephone town hall I'm hosting tonight, March 25. The hour-long program will begin at 6 p.m., and will be similar to a call-in radio show during which people may call and ask questions over the telephone, as well as participate in interactive surveys.
If you wish to participate, you can call (360) 947-3422 from 6-7 p.m. If you would like to ask a question, you may do so by pressing the STAR * key on your telephone keypad at any point during the call. I look forward to speaking with you!
Drought emergency declared for the Olympic Peninsula
On March 13, Gov. Inslee declared a drought emergency for the Olympic Peninsula, as well as for two other regions in the state. While our district has not been as impacted as others, snowpack is 7 percent of normal in the Olympic Mountains. I appreciate the governor's declaration, as we have been advised watersheds on the Olympic Peninsula will be hit hard. The Washington State Department of Ecology has requested $9 million in drought relief from the Legislature. This money would pay for agricultural and fisheries projects, emergency water-right permits, changes to existing water rights, and grant water-right transfers. Ecology has been working with municipalities to review the 62 watersheds in Washington state, several of which are in the 35th District. Thirty-four of the state's watersheds are projected to have less than 75 percent normal supply.
Honoring Gretchen Schodde
Ms. Schodde received the award for founding Harmony Hill Retreat Center in Union, whose mission is to help transform the lives of those affected by cancer and to inspire healthy living for all. Ms. Schodde has made a tremendous impact on thousands of people in our district and state, and I thank her for her dedication to serving others.
For more information about the Washington State Medal of Merit, click here.
In my most recent video update, I discuss House Bill 1962, provide some thoughts on the legislative session, and touch on the town hall meeting I held with Rep. MacEwen. Take a look!
If you are unable to participate in the telephone town hall tonight, please feel free to call or email me any time with comments, questions or concerns. My email address is email@example.com, and my phone number is (360) 786-7966.
It is an honor to serve you in the state House of Representatives.